May 7, 2013

"You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!"

"It’s an odd little speech. But if you went back 15,000 years and spoke these words to hunter-gatherers in Asia in any one of hundreds of modern languages, there is a chance they would understand at least some of what you were saying."

Ultraconserved words.

25 comments:

edutcher said...

Lefties to the contrary, some things really are immutable.

Interesting is that one of them is that word, mother, and the reverence it commands.

St. George said...

"Aargh!"

The first word, as spoken in "2001," in the match cut from bone weapon-wielding proto-human to orbiting nuclear weapons platform.

Aargh.

The Drill SGT said...

I suspect that "enemy" or "other" which is effectively the same thing is another one of those long standing words. I think I learned, via a John Ford Film, that Apache means "enemy" in Hopi :)

Balfegor said...

If you listen to the audio samples of the purported cognates, it's obvious that this is not actually true -- even just between reconstructed Indo-European and modern Indo-European languages, the sound changes render the modern language mutually incomprehensible with the ancestral language.

The Drill SGT said...

St. George said...
"Aargh!"


Reminds me of when the reporters asked Einstein:

Reporter: "Doctor Einstein, what weapons will be used to fight World War III?"

Herr Doctor: "Vell, I do not know the answer to that question, but I know which weapons will be used in World War IV"

Reporters: "Wow, such insight, please share the future with us, Doctor"

Herr Doctor: "Rocks"

Pogo said...

I wonder why Esperanto didn't catch on?
The same text:

"Vi, auxskultu min! Donu al tiu fajro al tiu maljunulo. Tiri la nigra vermo ekstere de la ŝelo kaj donu gxin al la patrino. Kaj neniu kraĉi en la cindro!"

madAsHell said...

I'd like to buy a vowel.

Surfed said...

How so very, very cool.

wyo sis said...

It sounds plausible to me.
They mention father in the article, but it isn't in the sentence. Maybe old man isn't a 50's term after all.

Hagar said...

Husband comes from the Old Norse "hus bonde" - "master/owner of the house/place," but bonde is not an Indo-Euoropean word. Bonde also means an independent farmer - a "self-owner" - and may stem from the name the indigenous people had for themselves before the Old Norse arrived during the Migration Period.
The Old Norse (also called "Vikings," though "viking" is an occupational term - like pirate or trial lawyer - and does note denote a people in general)clearly distinguished between themselves as "mannr" and the resident farming population as "bønder."

Hagar said...

Uh-oh,

...does denote ...

Hagar said...

Uh-oh again,

... does not denote ...

Bill Chapman said...

Pogo has made some mistakes in the Esperanto he gave. The correct text in Esperanto is:
"Vi, aǔskultu min! Donu ĉi tiun fajron al tiu maljunulo. Tiru la nigran vermon el la ŝelo kaj donu ĝin al la patrino. Kaj ne kraĉu en la cindro!"

I suspect Pogo relied on Google Translate.

I hope you'll allow me to add that Esperanto celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. That's quite an achievement for what started as the idea of just one man. It has survived wars and strikes and economic crises, and continues to attract young learners.

Mitchell the Bat said...

If "meh" counts as a word then you can toss that one into the mix.

Fernandinande said...

"Vous, écoutez-moi! Donner ce feu à ce vieil homme. Tirez le ver noir l'écorce et le donner à la mère. Et pas cracher dans les cendres!"

Every English speaker could read and understand that, right?

And of course people who speak only English, Danish, French, German or Norwegian can understand each others simple sentences in the other languages - not. The article is BS.

Fernandinande said...

"Vous, écoutez-moi! Donner ce feu à ce vieil homme. Tirez le ver noir l'écorce et le donner à la mère. Et pas cracher dans les cendres!"

Every English speaker could read and understand that, right?

And of course people who speak only English, Danish, French, German or Norwegian can understand each others simple sentences in the other languages - not. The article is BS.

Gahrie said...

I wonder why Esperanto didn't catch on?

Because English did.

edutcher said...

The Drill SGT said...

I suspect that "enemy" or "other" which is effectively the same thing is another one of those long standing words. I think I learned, via a John Ford Film, that Apache means "enemy" in Hopi :)

The same applies to the names white men used for most tribes.

Terry said...

So, is the word 'you' in 'you, hear me' in the quote singular or plural? In English it would have been only plural before about 1600.
The article is crap.

Methadras said...

Pogo said...

I wonder why Esperanto didn't catch on?
The same text:

"Vi, auxskultu min! Donu al tiu fajro al tiu maljunulo. Tiri la nigra vermo ekstere de la ŝelo kaj donu gxin al la patrino. Kaj neniu kraĉi en la cindro!"


UGH!!! Esperanto. The dream language of the left. You can even see the effeteness of it as you illustrated it. Seriously though, anyone who speaks Esperanto is a giant douchebag.

Balfegor said...

Re: Terry:

So, is the word 'you' in 'you, hear me' in the quote singular or plural? In English it would have been only plural before about 1600.
The article is crap
.

I think the article is mostly crap, but English isn't one of the languages they're talking about -- it's an Indo-European language, but that vocabulary isn't well preserved for us -- too many sound changes. The cognate set they use for "hand," for example, is closer to Latin manus or French main than English hand.

Gahrie said...

think the article is mostly crap, but English isn't one of the languages they're talking about

Definitely not.

Don Quixote and Shakespeare's plays were written at approximately the same time. (early 1600s) Modern Spanish speakers can easily read Don Quixote, while even well educated modern English speakers have difficulty reading Shakespeare.

Revenant said...

Shakespeare's works are written in (early) modern English. Modern readers might not understand some of the *cultural* content of his plays and poems, but the vocabulary and grammar are easily understood.

Chaucer, on the other hand...

The Godfather said...

When I was a sophomore in college I considered taking a course on Anglo-Saxon literature. I sat in on the first class and learned that I would have to read Beowulf in the original. I would really love to have been able to do that, but it would have taken a lot of work (I don't have much facility in foreign languages), and the best I could have hoped for was a B-, so I didn't do it. I'm a fool.

Gahrie said...

Shakespeare's works are written in (early) modern English. Modern readers might not understand some of the *cultural* content of his plays and poems, but the vocabulary and grammar are easily understood.

Have you ever tried to teach it in the original language to high schoolers?